Behind the Menu: From meatballs to mushrooms, Basi Italia boasts fresh ingredients

Gary Seman Jr.
The Columbus Dispatch
Braised pork shank at Basi Italia

When Basi Italia opened 19 years ago in Victorian Village, it was part of a small but growing brand of Italian restaurants that were offering more regional fare and using fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Still, there’s room for the red-sauce classics,” said John Dornback, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Trish Gentile.

A spaghetti and meatball dinner ($25) comes with a Caesar salad, four meatballs and tiramisu. Pan-fried zucchini, prepared with a simple egg wash and breading, can be substituted for the meatballs. A spaghetti dinner for two is $45.

Dornback puts a lot of effort into the meatballs (four per individual dinner), whose ingredients include veal, pork and ground beef, fennel, golden raisins, pine nuts and fennel seeds.

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The not-so-secret ingredient is ground mortadella, a lunchmeat similar to bologna.

“It keeps them moist,” Dornback said. “The mix is key because there’s nothing like a dry meatball.”

The sauce is a simple pomodoro with fresh plum tomatoes, basil and some dried spices that’s cooked slowly but not too long in order keep the flavors fresh.

Zucchini pesto salad at Basi Italia

Basi’s gnocchi ($24) are unlike the miniature potato dumplings with which many are familiar.

The kitchen uses ricotta, cheese, eggs and spice and flattens the dumplings on a steel tin, where they brown and expand in the oven. They’re paired with thin slices of snow peas, asparagus and carrots and dressed with spring-onion aioli.

“It’s very light but it’s also very satisfying,” he said.

Lamb chops ($38) are marinated and grilled, served with chive mashed potatoes, tzatziki and a gremolata — dashed across the meat upon serving — that gets a refreshing touch of mint.

“It’s great and it’s versatile,” he said of the gremolata.

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Pork shank ($34) is brined for 24 hours in a type of barbecue sauce made of red wine vinegar, citrus peel, garlic and shallots, and served over a mash of corn and polenta.

gnocchi at Basi Italia

“I think it presents well,” Dornback said. “With the bone in, it cooks so evenly, it’s so moist. It’s a classic dish.”

Those who love mushrooms need look no further than the flatbread ($16) that showcases fresh shiitakes, cremini, oyster and trumpet, matched with ricotta, truffles, caramelized onions, smoked sea salt and dried porcini powder adding more earthy depth.

“It’s a simple pie but it eats well,” he said. “It’s a nice way to showcase mushrooms.”

Zucchini pronto salad ($11) offers zucchini planks that are further whittled down to matchsticks. Almonds are toasted to a light brown and the haystack of zucchini is thrown into the pan for a quick saute, then gets a squeeze of lemon and a dash of parsley.

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The plate is finished with thin sheets of pecorino Romano.

“I just think it comes together really well,” Dornback said. “People love it.”


Basi Italia

Where: 811 Highland St., Victorian Village

Hours: 4 p.m. to close Wednesdays through Saturdays; and closed Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays

Contact: 614-294-7383, https://www.basi-italia.com/